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© Regina Asmutis-Silvia, minutes before snow squall

Right whale research in Cape Cod Bay

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And the award for deep-diving champion goes to?

Not the sperm whale as some might have thought, but in fact the lesser known Cuvier’s beaked whale!! 

Researchers from Cascadia Research Collective recorded an individual Cuvier’s beaked whale diving to a depth of almost 3km and staying there for 137 minutes, beating the former record holder – the southern elephant seal – by some margin. So how can they dive to such depths? One of the reasons is that there is a dramatic reduction in air spaces in their bodies, air spaces that would crush a human at a fraction of the depth these whales can dive to.

They found that the whales preferred diving behaviour is for a single deep foraging dive followed by a series of shallow dives, whilst the time spent at the surface in between each dive can be very short – just a few minutes.

Another interesting result from the study was “where” the whales were located – within the Southern California Anti-Submarine Warfare Range, one of the most heavily used sonar training areas in the world. The implications of this are unknown, have they become habituated to sonar? Do they only use it at times of no sonar activity? Is their behaviour affected by sonar – as in are they diving deeper than normal, or perhaps shallower than normal? It is unlikely that they are not affected at all and therefore more research is needed to try and unravel the mystery of these new record holders.

Find out more amazing facts about whales and dolphins.